Escaping from body image shame and harsh self-criticism: exploration of underlying mechanisms of binge eating

Eat Behav. 2014 Dec;15(4):638-43. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.08.025. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


Shame has been highlighted as a key component of eating psychopathology. However, the specific impact of body image shame on binge eating and the mechanisms through which it operates remained unexplored. The current study tests a model examining the role that body image shame plays in binge eating and the mediator effect of self-criticism on this association, while controlling for the effect of depressive symptoms, in 329 women from the general population and college students. Correlation analyses showed that binge eating is positively associated with depressive symptoms, body image shame, and self-criticism, namely with a more severe form of self-criticism characterized by self-disgust, hating and wanting to hurt the self - hated self. Furthermore, results indicated that the path model explained 32% of binge eating behaviours and confirmed that body image shame has a significant direct effect on binge eating, and that this effect is partially mediated by increased hated self. These findings suggest that binge eating may emerge as a maladaptive way to cope with the threat of being negatively viewed by others because of one's physical appearance and the consequent engagement in a severe critical self-relating style marked by hatred, disgust and contempt towards the self. This study contributes therefore for the understanding of the processes underlying binge eating. Also, these findings have important research and clinical implications, supporting the relevance of developing eating disorder treatments that specifically target shame and self-criticism, through the development of self-compassionate skills.

Keywords: Binge eating; Body image shame; Mediator effect; Path analysis; Self-criticism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Shame*
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Universities
  • Young Adult